The Unexpected Realities in Marriage: Part 6 – Raising Children

This week we're going to discuss the raising of children.  We consider them to be part of the unexpected realities, in marriage. Most parents are not prepared for the changes that children add to their life.  In our experience, the girls shocked and surprised us more than they ever created any real heartache.  They came up with twists and turns that we are not sure any parent could prepare for in advance.  As a couple, we had to learn how to unify our front in dealing with them.

Our Story

Heather and I were 18 years old when we got married.  We had a really short engagement as well.  Some may be thinking that perhaps she was pregnant when we got married but that was not the case either.  Our entire dating and engagement period was barely over 6 months.  Heather became pregnant just 6 weeks into our marriage.  Neither of us was prepared for that on any level (e.g. emotionally, financially, or otherwise...).

When Heather was in her 5th month of pregnancy, she was involved in a car accident. She had been wearing her seatbelt, which protected her from slamming into the steering wheel. The impact bruised her bladder but didn't hurt the baby. Then, 2 days later, we were both involved in a car accident.  A teen driver ran a stop sign and we t-boned his car with my dad's truck.  I never even hit the brakes, as he ran right out into traffic.  The thought of Heather screaming "MY BABY, MY BABY" haunts me to this day.  We thought that we had lost Mindy.  After a few days in the hospital and all the test were completed, we were very pleased to find out that Mindy was unharmed.  We were so thankful the day that she was born to visibly verify for ourselves that she was really okay.

We were not prepared for the endless sleepless nights, in the beginning.  It did not take me very long to realize that Mindy needed to stay up more during the day and I worked hard to make that happen so she would sleep at night.  As she began to grow and we began to settle into the roles of mommy and daddy, we learned more about how to adjust our lives.  As I stated in Part 5 of this series, Heather was mainly the one who made most of the adjustments and I just found more things to work at and keep me busy.  I don't know if I ever did get used to being puked on, peed on, and crapped on.  Mindy was a projectile vomiter.  Just point and shoot! At one point, I thought we had spawned a demon and was just waiting for her head to spin all the way around (Exorcist reference, LOL). Nothing in my life had prepared me for that concept but mothers seem to accept it more quickly and just deal with it.

Our second baby would come to us about 2 1/2 years later.  Thankfully, we didn't have to deal with multiple car accidents with Kassondra.  The last few months of the pregnancy, Heather was dealing with a lot of stress and was put on bed rest.  I would imagine that our marital struggles had a lot to do with that.  She also had a troubled delivery and issues with low blood pressure.  It was very stressful for me because I felt so helpless.

It did not help my situation that the night Heather was in labor, a mother lost her life and both babies (twins). She had snuck into the bathroom to smoke.  A blood clot moved from her leg to her brain.  That was the most heart-wrenching scene I have ever witnessed in my life.  Particularly when the husband came back to the hospital and they told him what had happened.  My whole family sat in the waiting room weeping that night.  Fortunately, Heather was unaware of this even happening and we didn't tell her for some time after she was out of the hospital.

Through all of the labor struggles and incidents, somehow we managed to bring two beautiful little girls into the world both strong and healthy.  After our "almost divorce" in 1995, I became fully engaged in raising the girls and learned just how messy children can be.  No more babysitters when Heather went to work.  I gave them baths and learned how to feed them properly so that they would quit crying all the time.

Through the coming years, we would grow a deep family bond that is unbroken to this day. The quality time that we spent with them as they grew and explored their world was priceless.  We took them everywhere with us.  They grew to know us as the real people we are and not false representations of perfect people. This blog is not big enough to hold all of the memories that we have created with our children.  Though times were tough in different periods of our life through financial burdens, sickness, broken hearts, and many other emotional tragedies, we would not trade a single moment because those were the events that shaped us into the people that we are today.

Final Thoughts

You may be struggling right now with your own children. They are challenging the last bit of sanity you have left in you.  Take it from a couple who has already climbed that mountain and reached the top. You will miss the journey when it is gone.  Cherish those memories. Relish in the noise and messes that your children make.  Reminisce in the sounds of childhood and laughter.  Lean into God when they reject you through their teen years and tell you that they don't need you anymore. They will stretch their wings for flight and want to see what they can do without your help.  They will return to you again if you just hold on and pray through the struggling times.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

The day they walk out the door for the last time and walk into their own home will be a tearful day of gladness and sorrow. However, it will be filled with the joy of the Lord for having finished the race and brought them to adulthood without killing them (LOL, kidding).

Parenting can be challenging.  It can also be very rewarding.  We suggest that parents find more reasons to smile with their kids.  Find reasons to laugh and play with them.  Focus more on the good qualities that they have and less on any bad ones.  Create so many memories with them that they can never forget the love that you had for them.

Tim & Heather Key
Life Travelers

The Unexpected Realities of Marriage: Part 3 – "Great Sexpectations"

We continue our discussion this week on expectations vs reality.  We are going to branch off into the area of sexual expectations that we will call "Great Sexpectations".  I know all too well that this is a taboo subject in our culture (Christian America).  The varying opinions concerning the sexual topic are as numerous as the stars in the sky.  Though we do our best to not be offensive, we will not apologize for speaking the truth.  We will be speaking very openly to ensure that we are clear in our message.  Let's get started.

How do we develop our sexual expectations before we get married?    Tweet This!

There is no doubt that everyone has some kind of expectation, as they enter marriage, about what the sex life should be like.  There seems to be some natural phenomenon built into human nature to attract to a partner sexually that begins with puberty.  Certain body parts begin developing in a new way and our hormones start driving themselves.  Obviously, the experience differs between males and females and also varies within the same gender role. But, something is certainly changing in our bodies in this period of our life.

Perhaps you grew up in a home with parents who talked openly about our sexuality. Maybe you even had meaningful conversations about what a marital sex life should look like. It could possibly be that they even told you about God's expectations concerning healthy relationships and respect for your own body.  If that is your situation, consider yourself blessed beyond measure because it is NOT the normal situation.  In fact, what we are mostly told by our parents is "do not have sex outside of marriage because it's a sin".  If you got much beyond that information, you are very fortunate.

Let me (Tim) walk you through growing up in my house and perhaps it will bring clarity to what we are talking about.  My parents had an active sexual relationship when I was a child.  We never talked about it but the "sounds of love" were in the house, after bedtime, on a regular basis.  (I'm smiling as I write)  I wondered, for a long time, what all the noise was about but never quite had the nerve to ask about it. Then, out of nowhere one evening, at the dinner table, I blurted out

"What are y'all doing in bed at night making all that noise?"

I was probably 10-11 years old, at the time.  Well, that didn't go over well and I didn't get an answer either.  My mother ran out of the room and into her bedroom, closing the door.  My older sister chuckles while not wanting to look up from her plate and my dad is smiling from ear to ear but saying nothing.  I then said, "Well, I want to know".  Dad calmly told me to hush, while still grinning and red-faced, and that was the end of my questioning.

Reflecting now, I think my timing was a little off for getting answers and the situation wasn't optimal for the conversation.  However, the answer never came from my parents.  That was the last question about sex that came from me to them.  I got my information, after that, from friends, Playboy, and Hustler.  I didn't feel like I needed anything more from them on the subject.  In fact, I knew way too much after the introduction to porn magazines.

That being said, I developed my sexual expectations about marriage from locker room chats, pre-marital relationships, and pornography. I was set up for a huge reality check after we got married.

My (Heather) situation was very different.  My mother was a nurse, there was no topic she would not discuss. At times,she became very embarrassing. My dad, on the other hand, did not talk about it. My mom told me about sex, what she thought about it, what God thought about it, and the choice was mine.  We all knew they did it; I walked in on it a few times but learned when the door was shut, walk away.  It wasn't a big taboo at our house.  It was just a part of life.  Perhaps, if she had told me that I couldn't do it, things might have been very different for me.  When Tim and I began dating, before we left the driveway on our first date, I told him that if he expected more than a hug and kiss while we were dating, he would have to go somewhere else.  He was okay with this, so we went out that night.

Heather set the stage for our relationship.  

I remember her telling me that and I also remember that being a quality in which I liked about her.  I had never had anyone tell me that so bluntly and be so established in their values.  I wanted to get to know this lady because she had tapped into something that I had never seen before.

I don't recall us ever bringing up the subject again, while we were dating.  She never had to remind me. That boundary was established and I honored her for it.  Needless to say, it did not prepare me for the variance that we would find in our "sexpectations" after we were married.  No, I wish there had been someone in my life, at the time, that was willing to expose themselves and tell me the honest truth like we are doing here now.

There is a rhythm to marriage and sexual fulfillment.  Tweet This!

Heather and I were unequally yoked in our sexual expectations when we got married. I will admit it, I was ignorant about sexual reality.  I falsely believed that she was immediately available to every sexual desire I could imagine and on-demand.  Boy, was I introduced to an alternate reality real quick.  Listen, we are not here to describe our sexuality in minute detail.  We are trying to show you a distinction between expectations and reality.  The honeymoon was a great experience for me and not so great for Heather (I found out years later).  It was several years before we found a true rhythm in our marriage and an understanding that has lead us to have a great intimate marital relationship.  But we are not alone in our venture.

It has been our experience, in talking with couples and conducting research, that most couples usually have one partner that is way more aggressive sexually than is the other. Meaning, one partner prefers 4 or more intimate encounters per week while the other partner would be okay with 1 encounter per week or less.  There are extremes in the frequency on both ends of the spectrum where one partner wants daily or multiple times per day and another person, prefers no sexual relationship at all or only for procreation.

Let's wade out a little further, into the deeper waters.

Our cultural taboos and silence about real sexual intimacy have left the doors open for every form of perversion and depravity to grow secretly.  Each person is left to figure things out for themselves.  The internet brought us pornography on-demand and freely available to anyone seeking to spice up their sex life or falsely seek to educate themselves about sexuality.  People enter marriage with wildly unrealistic expectations about intimacy and how things will be.  It often leads to unhappiness, isolation, violence, shame, brutality, divorce, or some other horrible and unhealthy marital situation. Some people, usually women, get trapped in horrible marital relationships that they were totally unprepared for and have no idea on how to get out of. And they can't talk about it because it's taboo and God hates divorce.

It is time that we break the silence and talk about sexuality in a godly manner.  Everyone knows, or most know, that God expects us to remain sexually pure until marriage.  What they don't know is why.  It is an abstract concept in our culture today.  Regardless, we need to speak the truth and share the reality for others to follow. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  If our story can save even one marriage, it's worth sharing.

Next week, we will explore this topic even further.  God bless and pray for marriages around the world.

Tim & Heather
Life Travelers

The Unexpected Realities in Marriage : Part 1

Most of the struggles and disappointments that have taken place in our marriage have dealt with the difference between expectations and reality.  We have had many conversations, in our relationship building process, dealing with the gap between these two points.

We enter into a relationship and both parties have a set of predefined expectations about how the relationship should be.  Sometimes, you may not even be aware of your subconscious expectations but they are there.  In our dating relationship, we spent no time discussing any of our expectations about marriage, family, money, kids, sex, where we were going to live, or anything else. We were only focused on dating and getting away from our parents.  However, we both brought a lot of expectations into our marriage and immediately began to have issues, when the honeymoon phase was over.  We did not understand why our reality was so different from what our expectations about the marriage should be.

It was shocking on how many points our expectations clashed with reality, through the early years. There are so many couples who never overcome this adjustment period.  Andy Stanley calls this the "iMarriage".  Our desires are focused on "I" rather than "we".  We recommend watching his segment from the series.  It helped us to gather our focus on some of these kinds of issues and begin making adjustments for a new reality.

Next week, in Part 2, we will break down some of the specific areas of struggle that we encountered and some things that we did to overcome them.

Our Story: Becoming One With Our Money

marriage-money-mistakesDisagreements on how to manage money are one of the main reasons couples argue.  We have counseled with many different  couples over the years, and this area becomes a wedge dividing them.

We are no different than most other couples.  We have had a lot of issues in our marriage dealing with managing money, budgeting, over-spending, and savings.  To be perfectly honest, it was not until our 15th year of marriage that Heather and I fully settled our differences with money. Continue reading Our Story: Becoming One With Our Money

Learning to spread our own wings and fly together

Empty nest

We have entered the empty nest stage in our life.  Our oldest daughter got married in 2015 and our youngest daughter moved out early in 2016.  One of the first things that we noticed was that our house makes noises. These were previously masked by the sounds of our children.  The sounds of silence can be eerie, at times, and it is perhaps the hardest aspect of empty nesting to get used to.  But be encouraged, we are learning to spread our own wings and fly together.

When Mindy, our oldest, left home for good, we were not impacted to the same extent as when Kassondra, our youngest, moved out.  Mindy worked us into the concept over time.  She was in college and only came home 3 or 4 days per week, for a long time, before she left.  We still had Kassondra at home and she spent most of her time commuting to work and school; but she still came home on a regular basis.  There was no silence. Continue reading Learning to spread our own wings and fly together